By Cathryn Lien, Features Editor
Appointed class member Lizeth Alonso came to the United States when she was three years old on a legal green card. Since the green card’s expiration, she has lived in the country illegally but under “lawful presence” thanks to the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) immigration policy. The Trump Administration rescinded the policy on Sept. 5 of this year, leaving students and minors like Alonso at risk of deportation.
Alonso was born in Mexico and left in the care of her aunt for three years while her mother found work in the United States. “My mom wanted a better life for me,” she said. “She came to find a better form of income and lifestyle.” Alonso is majoring in early childhood education with a minor in intercultural studies, hoping to teach in Latin American schools one day.
Her aunt obtained Alonso’s green card into the U.S. under her aunt’s name. Upon the green card’s expiration when she was in third grade, Alonso’s status in the country turned illegal; however, she was then protected by DACA.
DACA, established by the Obama Administration in June 2012, was an immigration policy allowing minors who had entered or remained in the U.S. illegally, like Alonso, to receive a renewable two-year period of deferred action from deportation and to be eligible for a work permit.
The Trump Administration rescinded the DACA policy on Sept. 5, 2017, but full implementation of the rescission has been delayed six months, giving Congress time to decide the outcomes for the population previously eligible under the policy. As of 2017, approximately 800,000 individuals benefited from DACA; these DACA recipients are referred to as “Dreamers” after the DREAM Act (Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors) bill proposal.
Alonso said her benefits included obtaining a social security number and work authorization and the ability to attend college and receive a permit. Without DACA, Alonso may lose her status at Asbury University and be unable to live and work in the U.S.
“My journey to Asbury wasn’t easy,” she said. “Being someone who is ‘DACAmented’ does not give me the same benefits as those who were born here. For example, I don’t receive KEES [Kentucky Educational Excellence Scholarship] money or FASFA.”
All of Alonso’s financial help has come from Asbury. “I wasn’t going to come to Asbury, because it was way past what I was able to pay for. I started to pray to God that [money] wouldn’t stand between Asbury and [me],” she said.
Alonso said that she was offered an opportunity that allowed her to attend Asbury at an affordable cost. She said, “I have my admissions counselor Holland Michael, God and my family to thank.”
Some people have accused Alonso of abusing the benefits DACA has offered her: “I have experienced bullying and I’ve been told I’m only using DACA to steal jobs. They say I’m not smart enough for college, so why even use DACA?”
Those who oppose DACA often cite the supposed economic toll the policy poses against legal citizens. However, according to an analysis by NPR, DACA recipients do not have a deleterious effect on American workers’ employment chances in the long run.
Some economists believe DACA is actually a boost to the economy. A study published in January by the Center for American Progress estimated that the loss of all DACA workers would reduce U.S. gross domestic product by $433 billion over the next 10 years.
“I do think that DACA benefits [the] economy because it gives more opportunities for people to study and get good jobs,” Alonso said.
A 2017 Lancet Public Health study found that DACA-eligible individuals had better mental health outcomes as a result of their DACA-eligibility, and Alonso agreed that she has seen personal growth as a result of the program.
“DACA has allowed me to accomplish so many goals. I’m able to feel satisfied with where I am in life. I’ve been able to fight for what I dream and see an outcome. DACA opened doors for me that I thought would’ve always stayed closed.” Alonso is currently majoring in early childhood education with a minor in intercultural studies, hoping to teach in Latin American schools one day.
“There is a possibility I may be deported because the government knows I’m illegal,” Alonso said. “I’ll probably be sent back to Mexico, but all I can do is trust in God that everything happens for a reason.